'I've Got To Be Direct': In Praise Of Daria
This post would make her very uncomfortable.
I don't remember the first time I ever saw Daria, but I do remember thinking, "Ugh, finally. I totally get this girl. I AM this girl. And I need those glasses." I was probably about eleven years old, but I made sure to never miss another episode.
To me (and, obviously, to many, many others), Daria was a complete revelation: a feminist icon in the combined spirit of Lisa Simpson and Sylvia Plath. At the time, I didn't even know who Plath was, nor did I understand the significance of what I was watching. I just knew that I could relate. The truth is that, both then and now, there aren't many bad-ass female cartoon characters. Aside from the aforementioned Miss Simpson, there's...Judy Jetson? Meg Griffin? Pickings were/are slim.
Daria was different right from the start. She didn't stand for any of Beavis and Butt-head's bullshit, openly mocked the Fashion Club, and proved to be comfortable enough in her 2D skin not to need any form of approval; she was self-ware and well-adjusted at an enviously early age. The secret that Daria had figured out early on was that, no matter how she felt or what others thought, she wasn't actually crazy -- everyone around her was. This attitude allowed her the emotional distance need to balk at trends and typical teenage concerns. With her combat boots, best friend Jane, and trademark sarcasm, Daria challenged both stereotypes and her crazy parents.
Fortunately for Lawndale, though, her teengage-angst-bullshit didn’t come with a body count -- Daria had also figured out that pizza was a major factor in one's happiness.
In fact, the only time Daria wasn't too-uncool-for-school was when she was trying to impress Jane's older brother, Trent. Because of her crush, she found herself unable to be herself around him. Still, even when she made extreme attempts to win his approval -- piercing her bellybutton and road-tripping with his terrible band (Mystic Spiral, but they're still thinking of changing the name) -- she would learn her lessons in a startling coherent way. While Quinn, Brittany, et al would spent the entire series running around in circles, Daria would grow and move on. Unlike Lisa Simpson, Daria would age and go to college, taking a deserved, if understated, semblance of emotional growth with her (age, of course, being a subjective term when we're talking about a pencil drawing).
More than a just a cartoon in a skirt, Daria Morgendorffer was an actual role model for all those who felt disenfranchised (everyone). She remade apathy into an understandable worldview through a measured, realistic approach that walked the line between observance and depression. She wasn't warm and fuzzy, but she was relatable in a really refreshing way. I like to remember her the same way Beavis and Butt-head do: as a friend who moved away.